Dibrugarh: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that in the current intolerant and strife-torn world, indigenous faiths have suffered the worst, and it is imperative to nurture them. “We must preserve these belief systems as they are deeply committed to the environment,” the Chief Minister said in his welcome to the delegates to the 8th Triennial International Conference and Gathering of Elders of Ancient Traditions & Cultures held under the auspices of the International Centre for Cultural Studies (ICCS) at the famed Shiksha Valley School campus in Dibrugarh on Sunday.
The Chief Minister presided over the inaugural session of the conference on the theme “Shared Sustainable Prosperity”, in collaboration with RIWATCH Arunachal Pradesh. The conference began on a colourful note as a procession was taken out with the participation of delegates from 33 countries in their traditional attires and fineries, to the accompanying sound and spectacle of drums and devotional dances by some of the tribes of the Northeastern region of India as they traversed through the main streets of Dibrugarh.
The spectacular inaugural session was presided over by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat as the keynote speaker.
The programme began with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp, followed by religious prayers offered by eight representatives of ancient faiths representing seven continents of the globe, including one by Arunachal Pradesh’s Idu Mishmi tribe.
The Chief Minister mentioned the many Assamese tribes and their connection with nature, which forms the rich tapestry of ancient beliefs. “The erosion of indigenous faiths is deeply worrying as it weakens society,” he stated. He gave examples of various tribes across Bharat who have faced similar kinds of attacks.
He recalled how Bhagwan Birsa Munda made it his life’s mission to protect his community from conversions and revive the Munda faith. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi from his book “Why I am a Hindu,” where he said that the demise of a faith is the demise of its wisdom.
Referring to certain forces inimical to the culture and traditions of India which have been working to erode the cultural heritage of the country, the CM said that the people of the country should create a deterrent to defeat such forces. Stating that he is happy to share the dais with RSS Sarsangchalak Dr. Mohan Bhagawat for the International Conference and Gathering of Elders, the Chief Minister said that the assembly of spiritual leaders from across the globe in the meet will help everyone to appreciate the belief system of the elders and strengthen the societal bond based on the values of elders.
The Chief Minister also said that Indigenous faiths in India are not merely religious practices; they are repositories of wisdom. They underscore an intimate connection between communities and the natural world. Preserving these belief systems is about safeguarding diversity in religion. These indigenous belief systems are deeply rooted in the traditions, customs, and folklore of different communities. Considering the immense role the indigenous faith can play, CM Sarma stated that the state government in creating a department which exclusively deals with Indigenous Tribal Faith and Culture.
The Chief Minister expressed hope that conference will help in reviving indigenous faith and culture and stop the cultural erosion taking place in the present day society. It will also help in connecting the present generation with the intrinsic values of the past. In a way it will help the present day people to revisit the country’s ancient past and its resourcefulness.